The Punch & Judy Show, the original Slapstick

As it is a lovely day here in the City of Angels, a day of good cheer and optimism; I thought Punch and Judy with its domestic violence,  unbridled brutality, corrupt law enforcement, rampaging reptiles, and Satan himself, a perfect topic.

I also happen to be at work on a painting of Mr.Punch, sans Judy;I should say I am currently avoiding that work as I am at work on this blog ABOUT Mr. Punch.

I was reminded of my interest in Punch by my last post on the   Incroyables ( see side bar); these Bright Young things minced about with a large bludgeon-like staff which they referred to as their “Executive Power”. Punch , another silly man with a big stick, seemed a natural progression.

Punch, derivative of the commedia dell’arte character Polchinello has always been a personal favorite.

Making his first appearance around 1662, he was wildly popular in London and Paris, he and Judy did cross the great ocean, gaining  popularity in the Colony, George Washington is known to have laughed at his antics.

Punch and company  initially were enacted on stage by marionettes, economics seems to have factored into the use of hand puppets. With light weight portable theatre and ingenious puppets, it was possible for one puppeteer to act as an itinerant troupe, perhaps a shill in the audience collecting appreciative change. From seaside attraction to seaside attraction, they entertained a vast array of folks.

It is a bit shocking to think that this shrill little hunchbacked fellow, beating on his wife, tossing Baby out the window, outwitting the police , even cavorting with Satan; was/is considered appropriate fare for wee ones. But of course he wasn’t the last fellow of dubious character to gain wild youthful popularity; the vicious antics of the Three Stooges, the stupidity of Homer Simpson, the cruelty of RoadRunner and Wily E Coyote of course come to mind.

By Victoria’s time, some of his antics were notched down a bit, precisely to address this issue; part of  her agenda for wholesomeness and family values perhaps.

A wonderful cartoon by the always wonderful George Cruikshank (1792-1878)

Of course the beatings still continued, domestic violence is always so amusing apparently.

Judy beats Punch

Judy goes down.

“That’s the way to do it!”

Punch triumphant.

Punch en famille.

Love springs eternal, always ready for another round.

Of course no discussion of Punch is complete without a mention of the wonderful magazine Punch. The cartoons have long been an inspiration to me, the dark wit, the attention to detail, the serious treatment of satire.

Punch and his crazy-assed antics inspire today, as this little video clip creepily illustrates; shades of Tim Burton.

“That’s the way to do it!”

The talented dollmakers David Chapman and Paul Robbins have done wonders with the theme.

Really quite marvelous.

Their work captures the spirit of this vintage ensemble.

Even contemporary artists such as Bruce Nauman have explored the theme.

Punch & Judy II, Birth & Life & Sex & Death

Bruce Nauman

1985

tempera and graphite on paper

MOMA

In my modest way, I will attempt to continue the tradition.

Yours truly at work.

Have a great day.

Post Script

At the suggestion of the ever fabulous Chateau Thombeau , I include this clip from the Stranglers, “Punch & Judy”. I must confess i am unfamiliar with the Stranglers, but the clip includes a bare chested young fellow and is of course thematic. Thank you Chateau Thoimbeau.

The Stranglers, Punch and Judy

Have a great evening.

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8 Responses to “The Punch & Judy Show, the original Slapstick”

  1. Ooh, the work looks great, and *someone* is a total hottie!

    I always found P&J quite disturbing, on all sorts of levels. Still do.

    Am reminded of an old Stranglers song with the chorus “See such soul and beauty…In Punch And Judy”. I’ll leave you with that.

  2. Will need to look that up, I’m not familiar.
    P & J are disturbing, my taste tends towards that direction.
    Thanks and take care good sir.

  3. babylonbaroque Says:

    I did indeed look up the Stranglers, have included what i believe is what you were referring to.
    Once again I am impressed with the breadth of your interests, i feel positively provincial in comparison to your catholic tastes.
    Once again, take care good sir.
    Leonard

    • I’ve never seen that clip before! They’re sort of past their prime at this point—once upon a time they were quite wild indeed—but that is the song.

      You are too kind, and I thank you for your generous words. I’ve always felt that flattery is the sincerest form of flattery!

  4. Great post. Some real gems here. Thank you Leonard for directing me here.

  5. [...] in which she explores the automata and fantastical creations of Robert Coudray, and HERE and HERE are puppet-theme posts from Leonard at Babylon Baroque, who is an enthusiast and doughty champion [...]

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